Unfortunately, the United States of America of 2018 looks strikingly similar to the divided America of the Jim Crow era. Every time you turn on the news you see another racially charged incident, hate crime or even terrorist attack happening right here on our own soil. This begs the question: why is prejudice making a comeback and what can we do to combat it?
One of the easiest action steps you can take to combat prejudice is to express your empathy for the person and the situation. This can occur on both a macro and a micro level, but typically it will be on a micro level. For instance, if you are having lunch with a colleague and a racially charged incident occurs, let that person know that you are sorry it happened. Explain that you may not understand exactly how they feel but you do not agree with what happened to them. Encourage them to take action if they feel comfortable doing so.
You can show empathy on a larger stage as well. When incidents like the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub or in Las Vegas occur, express your empathy through a less personal, yet still meaningful platform. Tweet to the victims or express your thoughts on Facebook. While you may not reach the victims directly, you are showing others how to be empathetic and encouraging them to do the same. Be vocal about your empathy, or it will never be heard.
In the face of hate, one of two reactions is formed: apathy or fear. Before reacting, people must educate themselves on the issue at hand. Through their literature and websites, hate groups spread propaganda that vilifies and demonizes marginalized communities like African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jewish people, LGBT and more. This is exactly how these groups solicit members. It is your duty as an American citizen to educate yourself on the materials being put forth by such groups.
Once you are educated, you can determine whether an act you saw was a hate crime or an act of bias. If it was a hate crime, the people involved can be dealt with through legal action. If it is a bias incident, there is not one direct path for recourse. That does not, however, mean you should ignore the act. If you overhear someone making derogatory and prejudiced remarks to someone else, say something. If you see something happening, call the authorities. The more vocal and active citizens are willing to be, the fewer hate people will be able to spew.
You have seen the marches, the protests, but how can you directly combat prejudice on a daily basis? You can take action. Sign a petition, speak up for someone, join a group in your community. It may not feel as impactful as marching on the Capitol or expressing your opinions during a live news interview, but change begins on the community level first. Get involved with local groups that support causes close to you. Keep your ears open as you go into the community and listen for what people are saying. Speak up if something isn’t right. Every day you can take actions that help combat prejudice.
Since the election of 2016, there has been a massive societal wave of prejudice seemingly coming out of left field. It is here now though, and as Americans, it is our civic duty to combat this prejudice. Too often, people believe that they cannot make a difference, therefore there is no point. This could not be farther from the truth. Every single day you can help prevent the spread of prejudice by expressing your empathy for those affected. You can take the time to educate yourself on the issues as well as the beliefs of people that may be different than your own. Lastly, you can take actionable steps toward stomping out hatred and prejudice by being an active member of your community. No act is too small when it comes to putting an end to prejudice.